May 2, 2022
Friends and colleagues across the channel are grieving the sudden loss of channel vet and stalwart Ken Mercer. He died on April 29 and was 54.
Just last month, Telesystem promoted Mercer to manager of customer success. He had more than 20 years of technical and business experience within the telecom industry.
Before Telesystem, Mercer held leadership roles at MetTel, Mason Technologies, Fujitsu America, Sprint, CenturyLink Business and more. Of course, most in the channel got to know him first from a nearly 13-year tenure at TBI, where he really cut his teeth in the channel.
In addition, Mercer was an active presence through the years at Channel Partners Conference & Expo, and met his wife Steffani there in the 2000s.
Bruce Wirt is Telesystem‘s chief revenue officer. He said the industry and world have “lost an icon.”
Telesystem’s Bruce Wirt
“Ken meant the world to me,” he said. “Long before he joined my team at Telesystem, he was instrumental in helping me understand how the channel operated. He was always forthcoming with advice no matter who you were, and was refreshingly transparent with his thoughts and opinions. Ken was the kind of person that would give you his umbrella in the rain; just a genuinely good-hearted person. Ken did so much to help us brand Telesystem in the channel during his time here. And he will be forever a part of our hearts and minds.”
Corey Cohen, MetTel‘s vice president of channel marketing, said losing Mercer is “devastating.” Mercer hired her at TBI in 2015 and he was her entry into the channel.
MetTel’s Corey Cohen
“He taught me this business, introduced me to many of my now friends and was not only a mentor to me, but for many others,” she said. “He took me under his wing and championed for me to have greater responsibilities.”
Cohen said Mercer “believed in me after our three initial interviews where we talked everything from business to our love of Shiba Inu dogs.”
“He was one of a kind and I’ll miss him,” she said. “Everyone agrees, you couldn’t walk the show floor with him without stopping every couple of minutes for someone to chat him up.”
Dave Dyson, Eclipse Telecom‘s CEO, is also among those grieving the loss of Mercer.
Eclipse Telecom’s Dave Dyson
“Ken wouldn’t want any of us fussing over him,” he said. “He would just say go home and tell the people you love how much you love them (for him it was always his wife Steffani and his dogs). I’m fortunate to call Ken a friend for over 15 years. He is one of the most genuine and thoughtful people in the entire industry. As long as I knew Ken, he was always focused on what he could do for others. Today I am remembering his laugh. He had a laugh that filled a room and instantly put anyone in earshot in a better mood. Ken’s impact in our industry is enormous and widespread, he was one of a kind.”
Channel Futures interviewed Mercer just a month ago for the 25th anniversary celebration of CP Expo. The laughter and energy Dyson mention are on full display (at 1:12 below).
‘Bright, Shining Star’
Mike Saxby, vMox‘s vice president, is the former publisher of Phone+ magazine. He said he’s “still struggling” with the news of Mercer’s passing as the “reality is starting to set in.”
Left to right: Ken Mercer, TBI’s Geoff Shepstone and vMox’s Mike Saxby at last month’s Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.
“Ken was a client, co-worker, and will always be my friend,” he said. “Ken’s personality was like a bright, shining star. If you walked into a room and Ken Mercer was there, it was impossible not to see and feel his presence. But, even brighter were his heart and infectious smile.”
Mayka Rosales-Peterson is senior program manager, managing partner program at App Smart. She said anyone who knew Mercer personally knew that he was “genuine, kind and always there when you needed him.”
AppSmart’s Mayka Rosales-Peterson
“He was a mentor,” she said. “In fact, he and I would call our chats ‘friend-D-A,’ a spin on NDA, and in these chats I could ask him for authentic, unbiased and professional advice, and he would offer it without hesitation. He always championed and uplifted the younger generation in our industry. He will be greatly missed.”
‘Friend to All’ in the Channel
Janet Schijns, JS Group founder, said Mercer was a “trusted adviser and friend to all in our industry.”
JS Group’s Janet Schijns
“He was someone who always lent a helping hand, was there to offer advice, and did what was best for the channel,” she said. “I’ve had the honor of working with Ken in several capacities and he was the real deal. He got results, but he did it while caring for and supporting people. He will be sorely missed, you can feel the heartbreak in the channel over his passing today. May he rest In peace.”
Geoff Shepstone, TBI’s president, is also grieving the loss of Mercer. He said his passing “represents the end of an era.”
“He was so funny, wicked smart and very intelligent,” he said. “We shared more times where we laughed until our eyes watered more than anytime or anyone else. He will be missed. He was a very unique individual.”
Tina Gravel is AppGate‘s senior vice president of global channels and alliances.
AppGate’s Tina Gravel
“This is a sad day for anyone that knew Ken Mercer,” she said. “He was a friend to many of us in the channel. He and I were close for many years. I was impressed with the work he did over the past few years for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and minorities, in particular women. He was a true ally for all of us. He was also a frequent cheerleader for many of us in the channel, a true unsung hero for years. I think there will be many folks that won’t remember a time when Ken wasn’t a fixture in the channel.”
Gravel has set up a GoFundMe site on behalf of Mercer’s wife.
Reconnecting at CP Expo
Buzz Theory’s Khali Henderson
Khali Henderson is senior partner at BuzzTheory, and former editor-in-chief of Channel Partners.
“What I most remember about Ken is he was quick with a smile and a laugh,” she said. “He always looked like he was getting away with something. But he always made you feel welcomed and part of his team. When I was editor-in-chief, he always took my calls, and helped me with stories and panels. He was my inside man. Later, when we both went on to new careers, we kept in touch. I missed him when he left the channel and was so thrilled to see him return. Last month, at Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Vegas, we reconnected with a giant bear hug. It was one of the best moments of the show for me. I’m so grateful for that. And, saddened over his loss not only for his real family but also for his channel family. We will all miss him. I will miss him.”
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